Slovak first-instance court rules city's forced eviction of Roma was unlawful discrimination on an ethnic basis
District Court Košice II in Slovakia has ruled in favor of nine Romani individuals who were forced to move out of the settlement in the Košice locality of Nižné Kapustníky in 2012. At that time, the city demolished the settlement and the inhabitants were not offered any alternative accommodation, becoming homeless as a result.
Some of the inhabitants were transported by bus to various parts of Slovakia. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has reported on the case.
In this first-instance judgment, the court ruled the City of Košice violated the plaintiffs' human dignity and their right to privacy and committed illegal discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity. The evicted families were represented pro bono by Counsel Martin Mendel and Associate Richard Marcinčin from the law firm Dentons in cooperation with the ERRC, which acted as a third party to the proceedings.
The City of Košice is to pay each plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of EUR 1 000, for a total of EUR 9 000. Michal Zálešák, an attorney working for the ERRC, reported the award.
The judgment is not yet final. "The City of Košice will comment on this verdict only after delivery of a written copy and study of its justification. Subsequently, we will consider further legal steps," Vladimír Fabian, the Košice municipality spokesperson, told the media in Slovakia.
The Nižné Kapustníky settlement was razed on 30 October 2012, when the City of Košice forcibly evicted 156 people, including 63 children, from informal housing where they had lived for almost 10 years. The eviction took place without a court order or decision by the administrative body and the persons concerned were not notified in advance in writing.
At the time, City of Košice representatives described the eviction of Nižné Kapustníky just as the demolition of an illegal landfill where "inadaptable citizens" had built their homes. Jana Dubovcová, the then-Public Defender of Rights, also pointed out the illegality of the procedure for demolishing the homes.
"Although this is only the first instance decision, it is a great victory for those evicted people who have been fighting a legal battle for more than seven years so far. The judgment is also important for the future, as it sends a message to authorities everywhere who seek to illegally evict Roma from their homes, and it creates new case-law on forced evictions and the Anti-discrimination Act. I believe this is the first judgment with a finding of harassment in Slovakia under this law," said Zálešák.
According to Marcinčina, who represented the evicted families, the decision is quite important. "I am pleased and grateful that I was given the opportunity to help the affected inhabitants of the Nižné Kapustniky area. It is a very important, and most probably unique, decision in Slovakia, which may help to prevent authorities from making such arbitrary actions without any legal grounds towards people in similar situations. We expect that the City of Košice will appeal against this decision, but we are ready to continue defending the rights of our clients until we see a fair end to this case," Marcinčina said.
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